LEGAL action to help recover half a million pounds stolen by a greedy headteacher and her school secretary from Cradley Heath is to begin this month.

Sandwell Council’s counter fraud chiefs want Wolverhampton Crown Court to force Michelle Hollingsworth and Deborah Jones, of Barrs Road, to pay back some of the £500,000 they siphoned out from Annie Lennard Primary, Smethwick, over five years.

Last November, ex-headteacher Hollingsworth and secretary Jones, were imprisoned for five years and six months and four years and three months, respectively, for their leading roles in the fraud. 

The swindle allowed them to buy luxury goods while the school went short of basic materials.

Hollowingwood used the cash to buy herself two oil paintings which she said were for the school but she kept at home.

In a report to the borough’s audit and risk assurance committee, counter fraud officers said they have already seized some goods bought with the stolen cash.

“Restraints have already been applied to several bank accounts and charges have been laid against two properties to prevent assets being disposed during the recovery process,” the report said. 

It added: “Several assets have also been recovered, with the intention to sell the items via an auctioneer who specialises in selling criminal assets.”

Much of the money was was fraudulently obtained by invoicing for building work and supplies that was either never done or was charged at exorbitant rates.

Hollingsworth’s builder husband, Joseph, was sentenced to 12 months for his part in the scam.

In total, 11 people were charged with varied offences with only two being acquitted. 

Following sentencing, the council says it is using the Proceeds of Crime Act to claw back as much of the money as possible.

Officers have said: “A timetable has already been set, proceedings will begin at Wolverhampton Crown Court in January 2020 and a judgement should be concluded by June 2020.”